Gap Analysis/Executive Function

From Cognitive Accessibility Task Force

Theoretical construct to help researchers think about how the brain actually works.

Background information - Theoretical Models, etc. (Wikipedia - Executive Function)

Loosely group into the following areas: goal formation, planning, goal-directed action, self-monitoring, attention, response inhibition, and coordination of complex cognition and motor control for effective performance. Difficulties in these areas are implicated in various disorders/disabilites.(Wikipedia - Executive Dysfunction)


from: LDonline - What is Executive Function?

  1. Inhibition - The ability to stop one's own behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts. The flip side of inhibition is impulsivity; if you have weak ability to stop yourself from acting on your impulses, then you are "impulsive."
  2. Shift - The ability to move freely from one situation to another and to think flexibly in order to respond appropriately to the situation (
  3. Emotional Control - The ability to modulate emotional responses by bringing rational thought to bear on feelings. (tolerate frustration)
  4. Initiation - The ability to begin a task or activity and to independently generate ideas, responses, or problem-solving strategies (also, ability to finish)
  5. Working memory - The capacity to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing(/performing) a task
  6. Planning/Organization - The ability to manage current and future- oriented task demands.
  7. Organization of Materials - The ability to impose order on work, play, and storage spaces.
  8. Self-Monitoring - The ability to monitor one's own performance and to measure it against some standard of what is needed or expected.

Functional implications of executive function disorder


Trouble with the following:

  • Estimating and visualizing outcomes;
  • Analyzing sights, sounds, and physical sensory information;
  • Perceiving and estimating time, distance, and force;
  • Anticipating consequences;
  • Mentally evaluating possible outcomes of different problem-solving strategies;
  • Ability to choose actions based on the likelihood of positive outcomes;
  • Choosing the most appropriate action based on social expectations and norms; and
  • Performing tasks necessary to carry out decisions.

Manifested as:

  • difficulty planning and completing projects;
  • problems understanding how long a project will take to complete; (jim-author task - estimated time to complete form, application, etc.)
  • struggling with telling a story in the right sequence with important details and minimal irrelevant details;
  • trouble communicating details in an organized, sequential manner;
  • problems initiating activities or tasks, or generating ideas independently; and
  • difficulty retaining information while doing something with it such as remembering a phone number while dialing.

Strategies to over-come or manage deficits:

  • Give clear step-by-step instructions with visual organizational aids. (jim-author task)
    • Be as explicit as possible with instructions. (jim-author task)
    • Use visual models and hands-on activities when possible. (jim -perhaps videos or audio)

Additional Strategies

from: LDonline - What is Executive Function?

  • Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
  • Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
  • Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
  • Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.

Managing Time

  • Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
  • Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
  • Use visual calendars at to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores and activities.
  • Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot or Lotus Organizer.
  • Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.

Managing Space and Materials

  • Organize work space.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
  • Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.

Managing Work

  • Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
  • Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.

Other References